Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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9.3.8

But the wealth, being an object of cupidity, was guarded with difficulty, although dedicated to sacred uses. At present, however, whatever it might have been, the temple at

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Delphi is exceedingly poor. Some of the offerings have been taken away for the sake of the money, but the greater part remain there. It is true that the temple was once very opulent, as Homer testifies; Nor all the wealth, which the marble threshold of Phœbus Apollo, the Archer, (Aphetor,) [Note] contains in the rocky Pytho. [Note] The treasuries indicate its riches, and the plunder committed by the Phocians, which gave rise to the Phocic or Sacred war, as it was called. It is however supposed that a spoliation of the temple must have taken place at some more remote period, when the wealth mentioned by Homer disappeared; for no vestige of it whatever was preserved to later times, when Onomarchus and Phayllus pillaged the temple, as the property [then] removed was of a more recent date than that referred to by the poet. For there were once deposited in the treasuries, offerings from spoils, bearing inscriptions with the names of the donors, as of Gyges, of Crœsus, of the Sybaritæ, of the Spinetæ on the Adriatic, and of others also. It would be unbecoming to suppose [Note] that modern and ancient treasures were confounded together: other places pillaged by these people confirm this view.

Some persons, however, understanding the word Aphetor to signify treasure, and the threshold of the aphetor the repository of the treasure under-ground, say, that this wealth was buried beneath the temple, and that Onomarchus and his companions attempted to dig it up by night; violent shocks of an earthquake caused them to fly out of the temple, and desist from their excavation; thus others were impressed with a dread of making similar attempts. 9.3.9

Of the shrines, the winged shrine [Note] is to be placed among fabulous stories. The second is said to have been the workmanship of Trophonius and Agamedes, but the present shrine [Note] was built by the Amphictyons. A tomb of Neoptolemus is shown in the sacred enclosure. It was built according

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to the injunction of an oracle. Neoptolemus was killed by Machæreus, a Delphian, when, as the fable goes, he was seeking redress from the god for the murder of his father, but, probably, he was preparing to pillage the temple. Branchus, who presided over the temple at Didyma, is said to have been a descendant of Machæreus. 9.3.10

There was anciently a contest held at Delphi, of players on the cithara, who executed a pæan in honour of the god. It was instituted by Delphians. But after the Crisæan war the Amphictyons, in the time of Eurylochus, established contests for horses, and gymnastic sports, in which the victor was crowned. These were called Pythian games. The players [Note] on the cithara were accompanied by players on the flute, and by citharists, [Note] who performed without singing. They performed a strain (Melos), [Note] called the Pythian mood (Nomos). [Note] It consisted of five parts; the anacrusis, the ampeira, cataceleusmus, iambics and dactyls, and pipes. [Note] Timosthenes, the commander of the fleet of the Second Ptolemy, and who was the author of a work in ten books on Harbours, composed a melos. His object was to celebrate in this melos the contest of Apollo with the serpent Python. The anacrusis was intended to express the prelude; the ampeira, the first onset of the contest; the cataceleusmus, the contest itself; the iambics and dactyls denoted the triumphal strain on obtaining the victory, together with musical measures, of which the dactyl is peculiarly appropriated to praise, and the use of the iambic to insult and reproach; the syringes or pipes described the death, the players imitating the hissings of the expiring monster. [Note] 9.3.11

Ephorus, whom we generally follow, on account of his exactness in these matters, (as Polybius, a writer of repute, testifies,) seems to proceed contrary to his proposed plan, and to the promise which he made at the beginning of his work. For after having censured those writers who are fond of intermixing fable with history, and after having spoken in praise of truth, he introduces, with reference to this oracle, a grave declaration, that he considers truth preferable at all

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times, but especially in treating subjects of this kind. For it is absurd, he says, if, in other things, we constantly follow this practice, but that when we come to speak of the oracle, which of all others is the most exempt from deception, we should introduce tales so incredible and false. Yet immediately afterwards he says, that it is the received opinion that Apollo, by the aid of Themis, established this oracle with a view to benefit the human race. He then explains these benefits, by saying, that men were invited to pursue a more civilized mode of life, and were taught maxims of wisdom by oracles; by injunctions to perform or to abstain, or by positive refusal to attend to the prayers of petitioners. Some, he says, suppose, that the god himself in a bodily form directs these things; others, that he communicates an intimation of his will to men [by words].



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 9.3.5 Str. 9.3.9 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 9.3.13

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